May 05, 2005

Failing Forward

Gerry Riskin's insightful post is a perfect companion to my online discussion with Ron Friedmann this week: Gerry, a co-founder of Edge International, recently discussed why firms need to stop worrying about perfectionism and develop strategy such that they "fail forward". As he quoted from The Warrior Class Blog, "The idea is to “fail forward” in such a way that, even when what you try doesn’t work, it puts you in a better position after your move than before it."

Gerry adds:

Food for thought: It is quite natural for the best lawyers in the blue chip firms to be perfectionists, at least in so far as the practice of law is concerned. However, when it comes to formulating strategy, I believe that the perfectionist mindset must be suspended in favor of taking action. Many good firms are paralyzed by perfectionism and out-maneuvered by those who are willing to try things and learn from their efforts. It was Edison who was asked for a comment after trying over 2000 times to make a light bulb and still failing – he responded by saying he was the only person who know 2000 ways not to make a light bulb. Of course the firm must guard against embarrassing itself or offending clients but, at the same time, the willingness to fail is essential for learning how to become premiere business developers. Even amazing lawyers in amazing firms must fail on occasion, but when they do, they “fail forward”.
One of my favorite inspirational quotes is: "Reach for the moon, for even if you miss, you'll still land among the stars."

But I greatly prefer to flip it around: If you reach for the stars and only succeed in landing on the moon, you're still in a better position from where you started. The essence of failing forward.

Topic(s):   Law Practice Management
Posted by Jeff Beard